The 21 new productions that form part of the Zabalaza Theatre Festival at the Baxter Theatre are in response to the needs of community-based theatre-makers.
The main festival productions for this year come from areas such as George, Heidelberg, Mossel Bay, Port Elizabeth, Khayelitsha, Mitchell’s Plain, Samora Machel, Gugulethu and Kraaifontein, Philippi, Khayelitsha, Mbekweni, Du Noon, Ravensmead, Malmesbury and Mfulweni.
The festival was opened by singer Yvonne Chaka Chaka, and the Sibikwa Indigenous African Orchestra plays every night in the foyer.
Thami Mbongo, artistic director of Zabalaza, said: “We are merely responding to the needs of community-based theatre-makers, writers, directors and actors. We have introduced these additional aspects to the festival, ensuring it is fresh and representative.
“Thanks to the generous funding from the provincial department of cultural affairs and sport, Africalia and Distell, we are able to achieve our goal of creating a platform to showcase the work.”
Zabalaza has already had a huge impact on the local theatre scene, even though it is only in its second year.
Selections started months ago, after 34 presentations were seen over four days at mini-festivals in Nyanga and Kraaifontein.
Last year’s winning production, Uhlazo, written and directed by Loyiso Damoyi, went on to a critically acclaimed run at the Baxter and a tour of Johannesburg.
Coordinator Zoleka Helesi said the talent “is so wonderfully overwhelming that we decided to add more of the incredible work from the communities, so that it can be seen by more audiences”.
“The new productions are performed in English, Afrikaans and Xhosa by theatre groups from all over the Western and Eastern Cape. We are so excited about embarking on this process of working closely with all the groups,” she said. The festival started on March11 and will run until March 31.